That night, in the cramped public house at Dranbui, Bayeo was taken by the shade of the Tuhál knight whose pin they found outside Teinwood.
In a future/past vision of Pynwydden Abbey, Bayeo saw visions of Fodaan’s happiness, of his teaching and his great pupil, then a vision of a different future where his failures had not crippled him. And then a terrible bright shade entered, making the dream somehow real….
Most Noble One, behold your own glory.
This is not mine, but another’s.
But you are the holder of it, the transmission of the Word. Feel the Word within you.
[The womanly body rubs against Fodaan, and he begins to burn with light]
Yes, now you feel it, as you once did, when you peered into the Maker’s Mirror and beheld to create what was to come.
I do not understand why such suffering is necessary.
[hand to lips in consideration]
Becuase all valuable things come out of pain: the lyre bites the fingers as they learn mastery. The child rips the mother in the birth.
[Nods incoherently as she strokes his body]
And you have done so well. I will share a secret with you.
You have done so well with my words….
[she does something indecent to the bard, whose imagined world has begun to crumble around him]
I want to share with you my silence.
[bends forward with lips the color of pomegranates and the substance of the origin of delight]
Yes, I would take….
[moves against her for the first time]
your … silence.
Because you must silence the False Questioner. You must end his apostacy!
[reels back as if struck]
I… he is the only one I have met who can See! His..
[voice become thunder instead of silk]
abuses are UNFORGIVABLE! He must be silenced!
[bends forward and whisper something awful in the bard’s ear]
[shudders from head to toe]
[pulls himself together]
[in a voice like the peal of thunder]
YOU SHALL KNOW MY WRATH, BARD.
[a weak seduction returns, obviously forced]
This is my second offer. There will only be one other.
Departing the village of Dranbui early in the morning, they bid farewell to the Flit Merchant Perevel, and turned West to the coast road and what lay ahead of them. The heavy and unrelenting sheets of rain pelted them on their road to the unremarkable town of Bala.
The next day, they traveled interminably toward Goodwick, the high, sparse wood seeming to hold them in its roads become muddy rivers as though they were a kind of prize.
Caerdwyn separated from the group to try and bind himself to the road, but unable to write the binding in the mude, the rain simply washed his magic away. Guaer found him and suggested that there must be magical resistance or interference, as he also had no idea where they were going (and Fodaan seemed beaten by the mud and the dark and the rain). Guaer suggested if he were made the group’s guide, then his power as a Pathfinder might be able to lead them out of the wood. Provided the magic were weakened as well.
Opening the Eye, Caerdwyn perceived a kind of ground-cloaking fog filling the wood, hiding all roads in its greyness, and the Sciandearg in his sheathe was burning with life. Drawing it (gingerly), he raised the blade, inverted it, and focused his power hot along the blade.
His cry drew Bayeo from the small knot of the others. The P’ntri was hovering over the kneeling, head-bowed wizard. The Pathfinder withdrew and Bayeo roused Caerdwyn with voice and touch. The wizard had seen the mist writhe and explode away from him, and then a white signpost pointing in many directions, one of the signs burning, and a dark figure hovering beside it.
Realizing that the wrath of the gods may be upon them, and realizing a way to let Fodaan down easy, they returned to the group and confronted Fodaan with Bayeo’s vision of Fodaan’s temptation by the dark shade in his dream. Praising him for his noble repudiation of the the shade (Macháin?) in his temptation, he also acknowledged that perhaps the gods knew his heart, and if the guiding of the party were given to a stranger, say Guaer, the Gods may have a harder time opposing them.
His voice ringing like an iron bell in the wood, Caerdwyn nodded to the bard, saying, “I release you from guiding us, Fodaan, and I hereby appoint Guaer our Pathfinder.”
Moments later, the P’ntri rose from his crouch in Saar’s rainshadow, and nodded. He pointed toward one of the muddy roads-become-rivers, “The next town along the coast is this way.”
Fodaan watched him with eyes of relief and …something else.
Beside the road, they discover another pumpkin-filled handcart. This one seems, however, was different <cue music>. It was filled with last season’s orange pumpkins, somewhat the worse for storage. It also seemed to be attended by a farmer in a kind of drugged sleep from which he is difficult to rouse. To Caerdwyn’s Eye, he appears grey as if terribly exhausted or at the end of an illness.
They bring him back to his farmhouse, where his expectant wife greets them with suspicion, fear and gratitude mixed. She tells them how their crops failed over the last week, and their animals took sick and lethargic. He went to town to acquire some food to store, just in case things did not recover. He was well when he left, and was not prone to drink or other excesses.
She prepared food for them in the main room of her dún farmhouse, and left with coals to attend her wet muddy husband. Coincidentally she seemed also to seal herself away from the motley collection of strangers who had “saved” her husband.
Resisting the blandishments of warmth and food and safety and the pastoral life, they turned away from shelter and went back out into the rain. The picket-walled town turned out to be quite close, the gate pickets set aside and unattended in the lashing rain and sucking mud.
Tromping their way into town, they located the signature conical thatch of a public house and headed for it. Stomping off mud and removing their sodden cloaks, they passed into the warmth of the interior to be greeted by … a handful of locals (by the squarish cut of their clothing) slumped, unconscious, on tables, bar and floor.
They stood, unquiet in their wet, staring, taking in what lay before them, unable or unwilling to muster response.